Public Accounts Committee report on rural broadband programme – LITRG comments

Published on 26 September 2013

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has this morning released a damning report on the Government’s project to extend broadband to rural areas of the UK. The report articulates that taxpayers have been “ripped off” and that the project has been “mismanaged” by awarding all 26 rural broadband contracts to BT, costing households an extra £20 in council tax to provide a subsidy pot for the firm.

Geographic isolation is no reason for digital exclusion and as such the LITRG has long campaigned for the extension of broadband to rural areas of the UK. It is vital for businesses and individuals to enable them to compete in the increasingly digitised environments in which they operate but also so that they can comply with the Government’s high speed ‘digital by default’ agenda.

This report represents an unfortunate setback to that agenda and we encourage swift progress on the rural extension of broadband as a matter of urgency to avoid seriously detrimental effects on the confidence and growth of businesses and individuals operating in these areas. The Government has already revised its initial target of 90 per cent of the UK having super-fast connections by 2015 to 95 per cent by 2017; further revisions will add to business uncertainty,create exclusions and cast doubt on the European Commission’s ‘Digital Agenda’ target of providing every European fast and ultra-fast broadband by 2020.

Exclusion extends further than the most remote corners of this country; it extends to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Even a 95% access rate in 2017 will still result in around 2.6 million individuals excluded from this new service. This is not an insignificant number and it is incumbent upon the Government to develop a strategy to ensure that these individuals are not left behind.

(26-09-13)

Contact: Victoria Todd (please use form at http://www.litrg.org.uk/ContactUs)